O Tannenbaum | SteamboatToday.com

O Tannenbaum

Kelly Silva

— At 8:30 a.m. Monday, a delivery truck of Christmas trees arrived on the doorstep of the Tread of Pioneers Museum.

By Wednesday afternoon, more than half of the trees had been decorated. By Thursday, decorators were finished wiring the last ornament and stringing the final set of lights.

Now, the trees are ready to be purchased by local sponsors.

The Tread of Pioneers hosts the seventh annual Festival of Trees with the holiday theme “Deck the Halls” this year.

Themes in the past have included 100 years of Steamboat Christmas and Music and Lights. Executive Director Marty Woodbury said she likes to leave the theme wide open.

Every tree came in a box and as of Tuesday morning, trees had been fluffed and set up by a crew of volunteers.

On Wednesday afternoon, Tibby Speare and Sandie Ihlenfeldt of Hands-On! Children’s Museum began wiring cutout ornaments of children’s hands to the organization’s tree.

Speare said children, parents, staff and board members helped make the cutout hands as ornaments for the tree.

“It was a team effort for sure,” Speare said. “We asked kids to put a Christmas wish or blessing on their hand and one boy said he wanted a (toy).”

Lowell Whiteman Primary School strung flags throughout their tree, Bud Werner Memorial Library hung hand-crafted books and Yampatika created a large butterfly for the top of its tree with nature toys all around.

“I’m so lucky to have this crew of volunteers,” Woodbury said. “I could cry every time I think about it with happiness.”

Woodbury, JoAnn Lathrop, Pat Zabel and Barb Stofan have worked together to organize the Festival of Trees for the past four years. Woodbury said she couldn’t do this without them or Karen Beauvais, the sponsor organizer.

These volunteers decorated the museum tree, which sits in the parlor with Victorian-style ornaments and gold ribbon.

Woodbury said one year the museum had to sell its own tree because more than 25 sponsors showed up to the private purchasing party.

Woodbury said the Festival of Trees gives people the opportunity to get into the holiday spirit.

“The museum will be transformed into a magical holiday world,” Woodbury said.

Each of the 25 trees was decorated by a local business or nonprofit organization for a fee of $100. This price included any ornaments and other crafts they wanted for their tree and six strings of lights.

“Mostly their creativity and wonderment is what they bring to the trees,” Woodbury said of the decorators.

Twenty-five sponsors and decorators attended a private party Thursday evening to raffle off the decorated trees. Sponsors paid $500 for a tree.

The decorated Christmas trees will remain in the museum for nine days when the sponsor assumes ownership.

“Some will put the tree in the lobby of their businesses or give it to an organization, like Advocates,” Woodbury said.

The Festival of Trees is the museum’s major fund-raiser of the year. Having a tree viewing until after Thanksgiving will give visitors to Steamboat a sneak peak of how small communities come together to celebrate the holidays, Woodbury said.

“It’s important for us and a wonderful event for the community. It helps the museum continue preserving history,” Woodbury said.

Woodbury said one year she organized 19 concerts for the Festival of Trees festivities. She’ll never do that again, she said.

But this year, she planned a handful of special events for the children, the adults and the seniors, as well as a group caroling.

“We’re inviting the world,” Woodbury said. “We’ll carol as long as our little voices hold out.”

Although this marks the seventh year for Festival of Trees, Woodbury said she’s trying to begin a new Steamboat holiday tradition with downtown businesses.

“In conjunction with the Festival of Trees we’re doing a holiday window decorating,” Woodbury said. “It has everything to do with Lincoln Avenue businesses decorating windows to get in the holiday spirit.”

Street passersby can walk up and down Lincoln Avenue throughout the next two weeks to see a variety of window decorations and vote on their favorite one. Although voting ends Nov. 26, Woodbury said she thinks those merchants will want to keep their windows decorated throughout the holidays. An advertisement in the newspaper will reveal the winner of the best window decoration.

“Hopefully this will generate a little excitement and holiday spirit,” Woodbury said.

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